Entering the Exotica—the strip-club setting of Atom Egoyan’s seminal 1994 independent film of the same name—is like walking into a painting by Henri Rousseau. That’s no coincidence. The jungle fantasies of the French postimpressionist were a key visual influence for the intricately constructed, emotionally devastating drama, in which the traumas experienced by a grieving father (Bruce Greenwood), a young dancer (Mia Kirshner), and her jealous ex-lover (Elias Koteas) gradually come into focus. When it came time to create a cover for the new Criterion edition, Egoyan was quick to discuss the subject further.
“When we began to design the interior of the Exotica, we had Rousseau’s art in mind, and the title sequence of the film seems to be superimposed over one of his paintings—in fact, it’s the wall of the club,” Egoyan says. “What I am attracted to in Rousseau’s paintings is the strange fusion of naivete and expressionistic fervor. There’s something not quite right about his paintings, and yet they have a brusque power and seductive draw.” The filmmaker also saw a problematic aspect of the artist’s work—“he never ever visited a jungle; those images and textures are completely a product of his imagination, and thus they are filtered through a supremely presumptuous and ultracolonial point of view”—as resonating with the often damaging self-delusion of the characters populating Exotica.
Capturing Arsenic and Old Lace, in One Macabre Image
To capture the spirit of Frank Capra’s dark screwball classic, Criterion enlisted a longtime collaborator to create an image that combines the influences of Old Hollywood illustrator Jacques Kapralik and legendary pen-and-ink artist Edward Gorey.
David Plunkert Shares His Passion for Color and Shape
The graphic designer behind our covers for Diabolique and The Tin Drum takes us inside his Baltimore studio and his idea-driven creative process.
Artist Sean Phillips on His Many-Sided Craft, from Comics to Criterion Covers
The man behind the artwork for Sweet Smell of Success, In the Heat of the Night, and several other Criterion editions discusses his career in narrative comics and the inspiration he draws from illustration styles of the past.
Chris Buck Brings His Off-Kilter Portraiture Style to Dick Johnson Is Dead
The veteran photographer’s gently surreal and comical sensibility drives the artwork of our edition of Kirsten Johnson’s documentary.
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